Do Scarlet Tanagers Eat Oranges?

Updated: May 14, 2021

Want to attract gorgeous scarlet tanagers to your backyard? Try offering orange halves and you might get a surprising special visitor!

scarlet tanager eat orangesCourtesy Dee Genisot
Orange halves are attractive to many birds including orioles, catbirds and this scarlet tanager.

“Much to my surprise, after I watched some orioles eating, this scarlet tanager appeared. He ate for four days. I was patiently awaiting the female, as my bird book says she comes two weeks later. How does she find him?” Dee Genisot of Gile, Wisconsin.

Kenn & Kimberly: You’re lucky to have attracted a scarlet tanager with orange slices! Tanagers don’t flock to orange treats the way orioles do. But when the first males return from the tropics in early spring, they may have trouble finding insects to eat, so they’re more likely to try different things. It’s true that the male scarlet tanager generally arrives earlier than the female, but the female won’t come looking for him until he has established a territory in the forest. Once he has this turf, he’ll sing from the treetops to attract a female and to warn other males to stay off his territory.

What birds eat oranges from fruit bird feeders?

scarlet tanager Rodger Boehm Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Rodger Boehm

“We were lucky enough to have two scarlet tanagers hang out in our back yard for a week in May. They spent a lot of time feeding off of our suets, oranges, and grape jelly. I was able to capture both of them together from my office window,” says Rodger Boehm.

Next, learn how to identify summer tanagers and western tanagers.